Offense - 2.5 fleur de lis (out of possible 4)
Anyone think they'd live to see the day when New OrleansSaints tight end Jimmy Graham would be held without a catch in a game?
NewEngland Patriots coach Bill Belichick took away the Saints' best weapon and it tookNew Orleans a half to come up with an alternative. Belichick put his best covercorner, Aqib Talib, on Graham. Talib, at 6 feet 1, had the size and physicalityto disrupt Graham.
And when Talib left in the third quarter with a hip injury,Belichick bracketed Graham with two defenders and used an end or outsidelinebacker to chip him and disrupt his routes. All in all, it meant for afrustrating day for Graham.
The Saints' much-maligned running game had morethan 100 yards, but couldn't get a first down when it needed it most in thewaning moments.
Defense - 2 fleur de lis
Coordinator Rob Ryan loves to substitute situationally, butthe Patriots' no-huddle attack made him keep base personnel on the field forthe most part. New England's up-tempo attack seemed to catch the Saints bysurprise in the first half. Twice New Orleans was flagged for illegalsubstitutions.
Tom Brady only faced pressure when the Saints blitzed. Brady andhis cast of no-name receivers picked on cornerback Jabari Greer often,including on the last-second touchdown when Kenbrell Thompkins inexplicably gotbehind Greer in the end zone. Ex-LSU standout Stevan Ridley had his best gameof the season, scoring twice and rushing for 96 yards.